Psychedelic Movements

Made by Jessie Li

Explore the internet's fascination with psychedelic animations and optical illusions

Created: September 29th, 2016



I wanted to explore the internet's fascination with optical illusions and psychedelic movements. Oftentimes, I'll see some video of an optical illusion go viral with the entire Internet wondering how something like that could have happened. Oftentimes, they are psychedelic and mesmerizing: something you could watch over and over and over again without getting tired. I wanted to compile some of the optical illusions that I've seen on the internet to create a project that centers around an optical illusion, and then post it on some social media account to see how people react to it.



The idea for this project came out of the viral dress optical illusion, where a dress looked blue and black for some people, while it looked white and gold for other people. It was just an image of a dress that had a strange amount of saturation, but it caused a huge viral outrage. I wondered what made that particular image go viral, and why people spent hours looking at something as simple as a picture of a dress. 

This train of thought led me to optical illusions in general. I began to watch videos on the scientific theory behind many different sort of optical illusions. As it turns out, many different optical illusions have to do with how the eye perceives movement, when there isn't any, due to an adjustment that the human brain makes to make up for the time delay it take for information to move from the eye to the brain.The brain turns a static object into moving object. 



I began this project by trying to understand optical illusions, and how the brain processed them. I watched videos and read papers on how optical illusions worked. After feeling like I understood how the brain turned static images into movement in the mind, I went about trying to find suitable optical illusions from around the web to describe the connection between movement and statics. While looking at Youtube, I found a video of a "hypnotic" spiral that was supposed to "make your surroundings move in psychedelic ways" for up to five minutes, which was intriguing, but upon watching the video, I found that it was actually really boring. You stare at this video for something like three minutes, and nothing really changes but your eyes get more and more unfocused, and when the video ends, suddenly your eyes cannot process the lack of movement, and inserts movement into everything you look at, even if it's static. However, with viral things, it's important to hold the user's attention; I wanted to combine that sort of static-movement concept with some other concepts. 

Originally, I spliced the hypnosis video with other videos that represented static-movement ideas: a room tilting around a static rocking chair (instead of a rocking chair tilting in a static room), optical illusions that projected movement, but actually remained static. However, I thought this created too complex of a story and moved away from the static/dynamic comparison, so I then sliced the video with static images. The images I chose were from a shadow artist named Tim Noble, who creates piles of trash that turn into meaningful shadows on a wall. I thought this was a good complement to the static/dynamic idea; the shadows don't move, and neither does that trash, but somehow together they create a sort of anticipation that they will move. 

However, I received feedback that the video was too busy, with the huge swirly movements of the video mixed with the complex images of the shadow art; I was advised to put generic, everyday life pictures in instead, lessen the complexity of the video.



I made the product in Adobe Premier, as well as Apple iMovie. 

The final project spices generic, everyday objects (Cheerios, a chair) with the psychedelic movements of the hynosis video. The effect, after watching the video, is getting the eyes to create a swirly movement effect on everyday, ordinary objects. This view is particularly jarring; the cheerios look like they're swimming in their cereal bowl, and the legs of the chair become all bendy, without even trying. The idea is to throw the viewer off balance, but not to be quite sure of why. I tried to make the transition between static and dynamic as seamless as possible, so that it was difficult to tell when you were looking at a dynamic image versus a static image. 

In addition, I played around with the audio. Audio is an underrated part of making a video go viral; oftentimes, humans are more receptive to audial cues than visual cues. I played around with how different sounds could convey different ideas; I ended up with a dramatic intro, rumbling rain in the background, and a soft closing door to end the video, which is supposed to signify the end of the video, except the fact that everything is still sort of moving in your field of vision. The idea, again, was to throw you off balance without really realizing why.



I wish I had put more effort into keeping the quality of my photos high quality; the pixels become quite obvious (the more you stare at the video), and it ruins the entire effect of the video, I feel like, where I try to make everything seamless. I also both wish the experience of watching this video was both more exciting and less overwhelming at the same time; there is both a lot going on, and yet nothing going on at all. It was an interesting topic to work with, but in terms of virility, it may lack a sort of spreadability that captures someone's attention quickly and holds it with a vice grip. I feel like I thoroughly explored the idea of static versus dynamic, which was the goal, but there were some things that could be cleaned up and expanded upon.



Briefly outline what you took away from this project. What did you learn? What would you do differently?

I took this project very differently from my last project; there was a lot of exploring for me in this one, where I just spent some time on the web learning about an interesting topic and how it affected the human psyche. It was more difficult than expected to come up with what makes something viral, and how I could possibly incorporate that into my own art. There are many viral things out there, and it's hard to say what part of each viral thing is the 'special' quality of making it viral.

I think my choice of topic was extremely interesting, but it was difficult to make some sort of viral video (most of the examples I looked at were viral images), so it was hard to pinpoint exactly how to make a video viral. 

Share this Project

Found In

62-150 Intro to Media Synthesis and Analysis

· 28 members

New creative industries are empowering new modes of collaborative consumption, creation and reuse of media. This often relies on successful collaborations between cross-trained artists, designers a...more


Explore the internet's fascination with psychedelic animations and optical illusions